It has caused quite a debate that Odense ZOO will dissect a lion during the autumn holiday. We welcome the debate as it helps bring into focus exactly as to why we have zoological gardens.
Why zoological gardens?
Zoological gardens have been brought into the world to inform people about animals, create a fascination for animals, ensure breeding with a healthy population generally, and to preserve endangered species. We participate in a number of international breeding programmes and are, therefore, subject to strict restrictions with respect to which animals we allow to breed and which ones we should put down.
Zoological gardens have a certain capacity and it is better to reserve space to promote the breeding of animals that can help ensure the species rather than to reserve the space for an individual which is the result of in-breeding. This may sound harsh but these are the conditions we are able to offer. If we start accommodating more animals than the enclosures are built for, the health of all the animals suffers and that is not the way to go.
Watch the inside of an animal
A part of the lion debate deals with whether it is ok to dissect it while guests are watching. In Odense ZOO we have dissected animals on a continuous basis for the last 20 years while zoo guests were watching. We believe in giving animals a good life and a dignified death. If we, with a view to disseminating information, can teach our guests about the anatomy of a lion, for instance, by cutting it up, this is what we do. It will, however, always be the individual guest’s decision as to whether he/she wants to witness it. Our experiences tell us that children are very curious and always have a lot of good questions during the dissections we have shown.
Back to the wild
One question that shows up in the debate is why zoological gardens do not simply transfer surplus animals back to the wild. Wild animals practice their hunting skills from a very young age, whereas zoo animals do not acquire the skills necessary to kill a prey and for that reason they will not be able to fend for themselves in the wild. With respect to lions, the biggest current problem in the wild is that their natural habitat is becoming smaller and smaller.